The Central Andean puna ecoregion is a high elevation montane grassland and shrubland in the southern high Andes, extending from southern Peru, though Bolivia, into northern Argentina. Several protected natural areas are found here.
Central Andean Puna
The Central Andean puna ecoregion is a high elevation montane grassland and shrubland in the southern high Andes, extending from southern Peru, though Bolivia and into northern Argentina.
Located in South America in southwestern Peru and northwestern Bolivia, it occupies an area of 140,960 sq km (54,425 sq mi) . Elevations range from 3,200 to 6,600 m (10,500 to 21,700 ft).
The landscape in this ecoregion consists of high mountains with permanent snow and ice, mountain meadows, high lakes, plateaus and valleys.
Climate varies from temperate to cold, it is dry with an average temperature between <0 to 15 ºC (< 32 to 41 ºF. Precipitation varies between 250 and 500 mm (10 and 20 in) per year.
Despite its characteristic dryness and because it still maintains nearly unaltered blocks of habitat, the Central Andean puna represents an important area for the conservation of endemic species of both flora and fauna.
Flora consists typically of open meadows with rocks, bunchgrass, herbs, moss and lichen. Grasses are represented by the genera Calamagrostis, Agrostis and Festuca.Parastrephia lepidophylla and Margyricarpus are small bush species found here. Azorella compacta and Puya raimondi are shared with the wet puna. Polylepis, Buddleja and Escallonia are trees found at lower elevations.
Darwin's rhea (Pterocnemia pennata) and the puna mouse (Punomys lemminus) are endemic mammal species found here. Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), guanaco (Lama guanicoe), chinchilla (Chinchilla brevicaudata) and viscacha (Lagidium).
Threatened bird species include the royal cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae), the tamarugo conebill (Conirostrum tamarugense), James's flamingo (Phoenicopterus jamesi), and the giant coot (Fulica gigantea).
This ecoregion faces increasing mining activity that is leading to the destruction of its scarce plant cover as well as the contamination of some bodies of water and the soil.
In addition, this region has a large number of population centers and highways that cross the Andes, leading to a decline in natural habitat and growing pressures on the existing fauna.
Fortunately, a portion of these habitats is represented within some existing protected natural areas and most plant formations are included in these areas.
Protected natural areas within the Central Andean puna ecoregion include:
Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation: A protected area located in the regions of Arequipa and Moquegua, Peru. The main purpose of this area is to protect the local flora, fauna and landscape formations. It spans an area of 366,936 ha (906,718 acres) which covers the headwaters of important local rivers like Yura and Chili.
Tariquía Flora and Fauna National Reserve: Located in the Tarija Department of Bolivia, it protects a large portion of cloud forest and a smaller area of polylepis woodland on the eastern slopes of the department of Tarija’s mountains. The reserve provides habitat for rare animals such as the spectacled bear, as well as hundreds of bird species including the threatened rufous-throated dipper and the spectacular military macaw.
Cordillera de Sama Biological Reserve: Located in the Tarija Department of Bolivia it protects part of the Central Andean puna and Bolivian montane dry forests ecoregions.
Aymara Lupaca Reserved Zone: Was a protected area in southeastern Peru, set up in 1996, with an area of around 200,000 ha (494,000 acres). It was expanded in January 2006, but the decree was repealed in 2009. The zone was established to protect the flora and wild fauna of the Central Andean puna and to preserve the ruins of Tanqa Tanqa of the Lupaca culture shaped by Chullpas, as well as the funeral towers, fortifications and other archaeological sites that could be studied.
Cotahuasi Subbasin Landscape Reserve: A protected area in Peru located in the Arequipa Region, La Unión Province. It protects part of the Central Andean puna and Sechura Desert ecoregions.